Parental speaking style and child language development

Parental speaking style and child language development

Across cultures, adults often use “parentese,” a speaking style characterized by exaggerated intonation, high pitch, and slow tempo, when interacting with young children.

Previous studies have suggested that children who hear more parentese tend to have improved language development, but the effects of coaching parents to use parentese with infants are unclear.

Researchers used a randomized controlled trial involving 71 US families of 6-month-old infants to determine whether parent–coaching interventions to enhance parentese could influence child language development.

Interventions in which parents listened to recordings of themselves interacting with their infants, received linguistic feedback, and discussed activities to promote language development occurred when infants were 6, 10, and 14 months of age.

Families with and without the intervention recorded first-person, naturalistic audio in the infants’ home environments when the infants were 6, 10, 14, and 18 months of age. Along with parental assessments, the recordings were used to determine language development.

Interventions enhanced the use of parentese and parent–child turn-taking in conversations, which increased language development by the time children were 18 months of age.

Socioeconomic status did not affect the observed links. The findings suggest that parentese is a social catalyst for language, according to the authors.